According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), just under 10 million people in the U.S. were working in science, technology, engineering, and math occupations in 2021. This number includes individuals working in managerial STEM positions. By 2031, the BLS projects there will be nearly 11 million STEM workers.

If you want to take your STEM career to the next level, an online MBA may help you get there.

Dilip Chhajed, associate dean of online programs and strategic innovations at Krannert School of Management, estimates that about one-half of students enrolled in Purdue University’s online MBA come from a STEM background. We spoke with Chhajed to find out how an MBA can help STEM professionals advance in their careers.

Reasons to Earn an MBA as a STEM Professional

Here are a few ways earning an online MBA can help you grow your STEM career.

Move Into a Managerial Role

“STEM graduates often start their careers with a technical job,” Chhajed says. “After just a few years, they might move into a role that requires a higher level of responsibility where simply having the technical skills is not sufficient to be successful. This is where the value of a business degree comes in.”

Chhajed says senior and managerial roles often require more interaction with people and a grasp of business implications of your decisions. An MBA can help prepare you for these advanced positions by helping you learn key management strategies. It can also help you strengthen your communication skills.

“For example, you might manage a team of engineers but also be responsible for communicating with managers from other departments or with customers.”

Learn How to Initiate Change in Your Organization

Whether you’re in an individual contributor role or a managerial role, an MBA can help you develop your persuasion skills—crucial for implementing change in your organization. An MBA can prepare you for improving internal processes or developing new products or services.

“You might have good ideas, but how do you convince the higher-ups to approve your suggestion?” Chhajed says. “The persuasion skills, combined with business acumen taught in an MBA program, can help you communicate your ideas to stakeholders.”

Understand the Customer Side of Your Business

Even if you intend to stay in a technical role, an MBA can help you understand how your role fits into the larger organization. Having this insight into the context of your job can help improve your quality of work.

“If you’re an engineer who is working on designing products, understanding cost and the customer side of the business can be immensely helpful in terms of designing products that meet the customers’ needs,” says Chhajed.

He says it’s important to keep in mind that companies are more than just their engineering department. “With a business degree, you can learn how different departments function to support the company’s overall goals,” he says.

Which MBA Specializations Are a Good Fit for STEM Professionals?

Four different specializations are available for students who enroll in Purdue’s online MBA program:

The right specialization for you depends on where you would like to take your career. Business analytics is a natural choice for individuals coming from a STEM background because it is rooted in data and statistics. The leadership, negotiation, and change management specialization is also a popular choice for STEM professionals looking to move into leadership roles.

Earning an MBA with a specialization may be a good choice for someone who wants to focus on a particular field but still wants to gain a broad understanding of business.

“Purdue is a very STEM-focused university,” Chhajed says. “When we developed these specializations for the online MBA program, we designed them to appeal to students from a STEM background as well as students from other industries.”

Chhajed says that while these specializations are useful for students who want to pursue particular career paths, students are free to choose courses from different areas that interest them.

How Does an MBA Differ from a Master of Science Degree?

“Many MS degree programs have a narrower focus,” Chhajed says. “For example, if you earn an MS in supply chain management, most of your coursework will focus exclusively on supply chain management. But when you take an MBA with a specialization in supply chain management, you gain a broader understanding of how the supply chain fits into the larger context of business.”

At Purdue, the online MBA program is 48 credit hours, while the online MS programs are only 30 credit hours. The longer format of the MBA program allows you to explore additional subjects and understand the broader context of business.

What Are the Advantages of Online MBA Programs?

Several advantages come from taking an online MBA program specifically. Program length is often flexible, allowing you to choose how many courses you want to take each semester. Many working professionals find that online programs are more convenient than on-campus programs since there is no need to travel to campus each week.

“Most of our students take the online MBA program while working full time,” Chhajed says. “When they have the opportunity to move into a more advanced role at their organization, they are prepared to take on these additional responsibilities.”

Additionally, online MBA programs allow you to make connections with students from all over the country and from different industries. Krannert School of Management also offers extracurricular activities and affinity groups that can help online students come together.

Expand Your Career Opportunities with Purdue University

An online MBA from the Krannert School of Management at Purdue University can help advance your career while allowing you to effectively balance work and school. Reach out today to learn more about earning an online MBA with Purdue University.